At only four years old, I knew God existed. The reality of God's love was evident in our home, and my parents did not shy away from prioritizing the things of God. As children, we noticed.
Our family attended church services regularly. I remember sitting in a pew of a Southern Baptist church in Orlando, Flordia, listening to God's Word proclaimed, praying, and singing many well-known hymns and choruses with the congregation. I remember offerings, choir specials, and altar calls. Church gatherings were a regular part of our lives.
What I witnessed as a child at church and in our home was compelling. I sensed that God desires something more than our mere knowledge of Him as Creator. As a result, my attention turned to the Lord early in life. I questioned my heart and mind: Do I know God? Am I walking with Him? Was God the priority of my life? What do these things mean?
I memorized Scripture verses to advance through the Awana program at church. I comprehended the gospel presentation of the colorful "Wordless Book." I walked the "Romans Road of Salvation" through the pages of the New Testament, underlining each step in my Bible. Furthermore, the popular evangelistic question challenged me to wrestle with the idea of eternity often - "If you were to die tonight, are you 100% certain you would go to heaven?"
Would I go to heaven and live forever with God? I began to examine my deeds and was disturbed at the results. I lied, stole from my brothers, and disobeyed my parents, which wasn't all. At a minimum, I was a liar, thief, and rebel. By God's righteous judgment, I was guilty, deserving of Hell. My heart was as dark as the black page in the "Wordless Book," representing the devastating horror of sin. I needed a new heart, forgiveness - a Savior!
The Holy Spirit used His Sword (the Word of God) to convict me of sin, my need for Christ's righteousness, and salvation from the coming judgment. The same Scripture that revealed my condemnation also made known the way of salvation.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23 (ESV)
One evening, I prayed to God with the faith of a child, confessing with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, that He died on the cross for my sins, and believing in my heart that God raised Him from the dead in power. I asked God to make me new and empower me to live for Him. I believe God answered that prayer, and I was born again by His grace!
Later, I met with my pastor and told him joyfully about what God had done for me. I later followed Jesus through the waters of believers' baptism. My passion for Jesus and telling others about Him confirmed God's saving work and priority in my life.
Around this time, I curiously sensed a desire to serve the Lord with my life, whatever that meant. I did not know what a "preacher" was, but I felt drawn to what that man was doing on Sundays and wondered if that was what God wanted me to do too. My fascination did not fade, and I began to tell others what I was considering. Over time, God confirmed His call, gift, and purpose for me to serve Him and His Church through vocational, devoted ministry. In the words of Beeson Divinity School, I believe God called me to be "a pastor who can preach."
The Lord continues to use people, provisions, and preparations, like those highlighted in these pages, to lead me into the work He has prepared for me. To God be the glory!